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Putin puts Russia’s nuclear forces on alert, cites sanctions

KYIV, UKRAINE (AP) – In a dramatic escalation of East-West tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian nuclear forces put on high alert yesterday in response to what he called “aggressive statements” by leading NATO powers.

The order means Putin wants Russia’s nuclear weapons prepared for increased readiness to launch and raises the threat that Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine and the West’s response to it could boil over into nuclear warfare.

Amid the worrying development, the office of Ukraine’s president said a delegation would meet with Russian officials as Moscow’s troops drew closer to Kyiv.

Putin, in giving the nuclear alert directive, cited not only the alleged statements by NATO members but the hard-hitting financial sanctions imposed by the West against Russia, including the Russian leader himself.

Speaking at a meeting with his top officials, Putin told his defence minister and the chief of the military’s General Staff to put the nuclear deterrent forces in a “special regime of
combat duty”.

“Western countries aren’t only taking unfriendly actions against our country in the economic sphere, but top officials from leading NATO members made aggressive statements regarding our country,” Putin said in televised comments.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Putin was resorting to a pattern he used in the weeks before launching the invasion of Ukraine, “which is to manufacture threats that don’t exist in order to justify further aggression. The global community and American people should look at it through that prism. We’ve seen him do this time and time again”.

She told ABC’s This Week that Russia has not been under threat from NATO or Ukraine.

“This is all a pattern from President Putin and we’re going to stand up… We have the ability to defend ourselves but we also need to call out what we’re seeing here,” Psaki said.

People take shelter inside a building in Mariupol, Ukraine. PHOTO: AP

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